NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Making More with Less

May 12, 2003

The severe organ shortage has led doctors to try new ways to do more with less, say observers, including accepting inferior organs, splitting healthy organs and increasing financial incentives to donors.

To increase the pool of donor organs, doctors are:

  • Accepting hearts from donors over age 50 or even those who suffered cardiac arrest.
  • Accepting kidneys and livers from donors with hepatitis C.
  • Accepting damaged lungs to be used in some patients who otherwise would die before receiving an organ.
  • Splitting a healthy liver so that two people receive transplants from one organ.

There are also some hotly debated new incentives to get people to provide organs.

  • Some transplant centers allow a person to donate a kidney to a stranger on a waiting list in order to move a loved one higher up on the list.
  • While the sale of organs is illegal in this country, financial incentives under discussion include tax credits or help paying for funeral expenses for an organ donor.

Some programs to increase organ donation in other parts of the world have been rejected in this country for cultural, moral and legal reasons. China harvests organs from executed prisoners. Iran allows people to buy kidney -- mainly the poor are selling. In Spain, the government assumes that every person is an organ donor, unless they explicitly state otherwise.

Source: Amy Dockser Marcus, "Extreme Transplants: Doctors Try Radical Approaches To Combat Organ Shortage; Splitting the Liver in Two," Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB105216989434838600-search,00.html


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